Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says their younger players will bring a new energy and positivity to the squad for their tour to Australasia. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Stormers go into their four-match tour – where they face the Hurricanes, Blues, Reds and Rebels – on the back of three successive victories against teams in the South African conference.
Their latest, a 35-8 drubbing of the Jaguares at Newlands, broke the team’s bonus-point drought, as their previous two victories – over the Sharks and Lions – were built on defensive solidarity rather than any showstopping attacking brilliance.
Another impressive element of the victory was the performance of the Stormers youngsters. Herschel Jantjies put his hand up to keep the Stormers No 9 jersey, as his service from behind the ruck was crisp, while he also made a number of try-saving tackles when the hosts were under pressure, and capped it all off with a typical sniping try in the second half.
‘He played very well,’ Fleck told the media after the match on Friday. ‘It’s just time in the saddle for young guys, isn’t it? Just giving them the confidence that they are being backed. They are playing with these experienced guys.
‘We know how dangerous he is around the fringes. He showed that again tonight, and his basics are good and he is keeping the team on the front foot. He is a fighter and has got a great attitude. He took a knock in training and we were a bit concerned for a moment, but he just gets up and carries on.’
Fleck also picked out Damian Willemse for praise after the back came off the bench and sparked the Stormers attack in the second half.
‘I spoke about Damian during the week, that he had trained really well. I felt that he made a massive impact when he came on and he was certainly testing the defences and got us over the advantage line and got a few offloads away.’
From a Stormers point of view, it is vital that so many of their young players are moving right into form at this stage of the season, especially as the Cape side will have to rest a number of their Springboks throughout the tour, and will expect these players to be able to slot in comfortably.
‘We have got a decent group going over, so we expect when Siya [Kolisi] or Eben [Etzebeth] miss a game, we can replace them with guys who can do a similar job for us.
‘I am really excited about some of the youngsters who are playing at the moment. When a top player comes off, a youngster replaces him and delivers the goods. They have got to have the same mindset to deliver the goods in a hostile environment. They certainly are up for the challenge.
‘This is when you have to get the balance right where there are a number of senior players and you have young guys who can bring the energy,’ Fleck added. ‘Let the senior guys lead and make the calls on the field, but the youngsters’ job is to bring energy and that is what they are doing. ‘
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